The abstract pictures of Yves Ullens de Schooten.


A favorable environnement :


Born in a family of photographers (his grand-mother was " Fellow" of the Royal Geographic Society) and art collectors (his father likes particularly Vasarely's paintings and Pol Bury's metallic sculptures), Yves Ullens de Schooten is surrounded since his birth by people and objects that surely but imperceptibly helped him broaden his vision of the world. The environment is favourable and the young man's love of art gradually takes shape.


The work that he realizes under the tutelage of experienced masters in the United States completes his experience. Yves Ullens de Schooten acquires during that period a sound technical knowledge. His thinking on the art of photography matures in a decisive way.


However, it will take a few more years before the appearance, due to chance and right encounters, of an authentic vocation, perfect synthesis of a well marked taste for abstract art and a passion for photography: abstract photography.


The trigger :


Which ingredients need to be combined to produce a work of art ? It is well-known: some luck, a good amount of talent and a lot of work.


For Yves Ullens de Schooten, luck struck unexpectedly when he was taking an action shot. A vacation picture like we all take a lot of.

The development of the film reserved a big surprise : instead of the photographed object (a salted lake in Turkey), the picture is a bloom of lights ! Not a lake anymore but instead incredible light that fades into colour grooves in such a way that the colours superimpose, interlace and offer to the astonished viewer the proof of their undeniable but always mysterious existence.


The genius of Yves Ullens de Schooten will consist in understanding the importance of this moment which contains the seeds of an original promise : the promise of abstract photography, the photography of the games that light plays on the human eye.


The technique :


Chance is a good teacher if ones takes time to listen to it. After a few trials and errors, his photographs gather momentum as Yves Ullens de Schooten tries to reproduce the technical conditions of the very first picture. He is developing his own technique. The camera, previously motionless, begins to move in front of the objects that fascinate it, as if it were dancing. The object fades, leaving the full space open for the light and the mysterious arabesques that it creates.

Little by little, the requirements for this type of art are taking shape. Quality of light is no longer the only element required. The photographer now pays more attention to detecting the very colour of this light source. He spots the volumes and the geometry of the background, sees how the light blends in or bangs against the space that reveals it, how the picture's harmony is created, always a delicate balance between a structure and the light that coils up into it.


"Hunter of Lights" :


The eye of the photographer is now going beyond reality (a sort of intuition that goes beyond what light is but instead imagines what it can be). Sometimes the photographed object (a set of candles, a wall, an assortment of swimsuits) can still be guessed on the final picture, sometimes a denatured profile still bears some traces of its origin but very often the object has completely disappeared.


The art of abstract photography begins therefore well before the taking of the picture. Indeed the artist has to imagine, within the context of a given and often very ordinary situation, the spatial and luminous effect that he will be able to capture or to provoke. It is a work of every moment that requires the photographer to be constantly on the watch. He is continuously observing the world around him and guessing all objects beyond their first appearance, becoming, whether he likes it or not, the "Hunter of Lights" !


A few markers along the way :


The work of Yves Ullens de Schooten has very naturally found its particular style, its subject and its natural sphere of deployment. It does not need any justification. It imposes with force its own necessity. After the first exhibitions, we already sense that it will fully blossom, search for new roads, explore unprecedented ways.

If the journey leaves a lot of room for surprises, the itinerary will not be chosen entirely due to chance. A few markers are already in place along the way, like points of anchor in the unknown. You do not need that many of them, and their seriousness has been put to test, since those principles have for name : abstraction, spatiality, avant-gardism but also well-being, warmth or even ingenuousness. They might seem contradictory to some but they are deeply anchored in the very heart of the works of Yves Ullens de Schooten. The author signs with every picture, a message of hearty friendship as well as an invitation to an aesthetic adventure.


The "painting-photographs":


The photographs of Yves Ullens de Schooten carry a unique style. His pictures results from a move of the lens in front of a small portion of reality which is insignificant when taken by itself. The artist is moving his lens in front of the object which has attracted his attention. He is creating the motion he was refraining from before and the docile lens becomes a paintbrush. The paintbrush is then soaked itself into the light. It starts sometimes to draw fine lines, sometimes to paint with large strokes: here some shapes are nearly translucent, there a projection of compact tints; here the lightness of watercolours, there the iridescence of golden copper or the thickness of a barely trimmed wool; elsewhere again, the coldness of metal.

Yves Ullens de Schooten suddenly seems to reinvent the whole range of materials and textures. He piles up tones, plays with shapes and volumes. He provokes the spectator, takes him along paths he thought he was familiar with, then proposes him totally original themes.

The spectator would really like to touch the material but the very nature of the photograph forbids it. He would like to identify the photographed object but it slips away like it does in all abstract work. It's as if, in those motions of desire and frustration, the spectator rediscovers the happiness of really original works. Does he feel vaguely confused ? Well, he is probably puzzled but he is truly delighted.


He has just discovered a new concept, the " painting-photographs ", from Yves Ullens de Schooten's original project: abstract photography. He hasn't needed much time to adapt and just like the artist himself, he has the rediscovered the ingenuousness of the first glances that do not bother to analyse but simply linger in contemplation.

From now on, in front of the " painting-photographs " of Yves Ullens de Schooten, he will experience the very first morning of the world, watching the appearing of that light that makes us all live.


Geneviève Bergé